Since the 1960s, divorce among older couples has skyrocketed. Researchers believe the number will triple by 2030.
Although “gray” divorce is an accepted part of modern society, some find the trend baffling. What causes older, long-married couples to go their separate ways?
A little background
In a 2004 study about midlife divorce, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) came up with the term “gray divorce.” Meanwhile, researchers at Bowling Green State University showed how much the divorce rate had increased for couples aged 50 and older over a period of 20 years. Since the 50-plus age group represents half the population in the U.S., these researchers predict that by the year 2030 the divorce rate will increase by one-third.
To begin with, life expectancy has increased. As couples live longer, they begin to reexamine their view of marriage over the long term. Once their children leave home, Mom and Dad begin to wonder what they have in common. In some marriages, financial infidelity becomes an issue. In others, various kinds of addiction cause problems. In some marriages, one spouse may simply have had enough of emotional or physical abuse.
Search for something better
No matter the cause, one or both parties in a longtime relationship realize they have not fulfilled the dream they envisioned when they married. In one of the longest studies of adult life, researchers followed two groups of men for more than 80 years. Findings from the Harvard Study of Adult Development show that living in conflict is bad for a person’s health and that aging is not just about caring for the body. In growing older, good relationships are just as important. Couples who divorce later in life seek the personal happiness they hoped for but never found in their marriage.